“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
The Old Testament law was a gift. But it wasn’t enough.
After God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, leading them through the Red Sea and destroying Pharaoh and his army, he met them at Mt. Sinai. From the top of the holy mountain, he delivered the law to Moses.
The whole law, summarized in the 10 commandments, was a gift from God. It revealed God’s holiness and established the boundaries for every aspect of life.
However, while the law made God’s holiness and the people’s rebellion clear, it also created a longing for the Messiah.
The Gospel of John aims to persuade people to believe in Jesus (John 20:30-31). The message in 1:17 is simply that Jesus was what the law was pointing toward. Jesus, as the Messiah, was what people desperately needed.
The law was a gift, but it paled in comparison to Jesus.
When it comes to the law, Jesus is better.
For an Old Testament Jew, nothing is more sacred than the law. And yet Jesus is better. Nothing created more guilt than the law; Jesus is better.
But that’s just the beginning.
Four Ways Jesus is Better
The law is only one example of how Jesus is better. Here are four more.
1. Jesus’ sacrifice is better than your works
The bad news in the Bible is that we cannot be righteous on our own. We are dead in our sins. And our best attempts to be righteous – our works – fail every single time. However, complete atonement is possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
We are called to believe in him because his sacrifice is better than our works.
2. Jesus’ forgiveness is better than your sins
While the devil condemns you, Jesus offers forgiveness. Your sins have a debt to them. The law only makes it more obvious. But forgiveness is possible for those who trust in Christ.
Your sins may be great, but Jesus is greater.
3. Jesus’ perfection is better than your perfectionism
If you’re a follower of Jesus, your identity doesn’t come from what you do or don’t do. Identity comes from what Jesus did. You are accepted by God because of your connection to Jesus. You’re wearing a robe of righteousness with “Property of Jesus” on the name tag.
You don’t have to be perfect. Grace and truth came through Jesus—not your hard work. A week ago I wrote a blog post on the perils of perfectionism.
Perfectionism grows in gospel-lite soil. To combat this precarious problem, we need to see our shame and desire for control as what they are: another attempt to live by our works. So, preach the gospel to your perfectionistic heart. Failure isn’t fatal when your sins are already forgiven.
Jesus is better than perfectionism.
4. Jesus’ love is a better motivation than guilt
Jesus creates a new motivation to obey and follow him. He radically changes our hearts such that we can see temptations as a lesser choice in comparison to Jesus. And in this transformation, he changes the motivation for why we follow him.
One way to fight temptation is to consider the consequences and the guilt. But a more powerful strategy is to regularly remind your heart that “Jesus is better.”
Jesus is better than everything that sin offers. He’s better than getting angry. He’s better than the thrill of a lust-inducing image. Jesus is better than striking back with a hurtful word. He’s better than the promise of “forgetting” by getting intoxicated. Jesus is better than greed, better than gossip, better than cheating, better than pride. He’s better than any kind of disobedience.
Being a follower of Jesus means living every day with a “Jesus is better” mindset.
Jesus is better than Moses. He’s better than the law. Jesus is better than your worst moment. He’s better than your best moment.
Why is he better?
Because grace and truth came through him!
Mark Vroegop is the Lead Pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, and the author of a new book entitled Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament.